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Archiver > ORCADIA > 2008-07 > 1215244711

From: Norman Tulloch <>
Subject: Re: [ORCADIA] Travellers
Date: Sat, 05 Jul 2008 08:58:31 +0100
References: <8CAA8F1E643B8AF-610-3983@mblk-d48.sysops.aol.com> <><486EDBF6.9090809@orkneybooks.co.uk>
In-Reply-To: <486EDBF6.9090809@orkneybooks.co.uk>

In Scotland they're generally called travellers, tinkers or tinklers.
I'm not sure that "gypsy" is used that much nowadays, though it seems to
have been in the past. One of the books that comes from my own area is
"The Tinkler-Gypsies of Galloway", written by Andrew McCormick and
published in 1906. The most famous was Billy Marshall, the king of the
Galloway tinkers, who was said to have lived to the age of 120 and is
buried in Kirkcudbright Churchyard. See pictures:


The third stone from the left shows two ram's horns and two spoons
because Billy's trade (or one of them anyway) was a horner: he made
things such as cups or spoons from horn.

While some of the tinker or gypsy families in Scotland may have been of
Romany (gypsy) stock, other traveller families are said to have
originated from those who were displaced at the time of the Highland
Clearances, and still others have Irish origins. There's quite a useful
site here:


However, back to Orkney. In his "Orkney Wordbook" Gregor Lamb gives the
word tinkler and also tink and tinkie, which he describes as "pejorative
forms of tinkler". In fact, I think that all of these terms are now
regarded as politically incorrect, though of course originally a tinker
was just a tin-smith — one who worked with tin.

My mother, who was born in Orkney at a time when snobbery was much more
socially acceptable than it is now, used to refer to some as tinkers or
tinklers — I'm not sure which. I'm pretty sure she referred to the
Newlands family as having such origins.

I came across this message from a Chris Newlands on a Newlands family
message board:

"Newlands (Nowlans) McFie and Higgins all appear in my family tree - and
all from Orkney. My gt gt grandfather Isaac Newlands (born in 1844
Westray, died 1895, Perth) was the brother of Elen Nowlans (born 1859,
Orkney) who married Andrew Higgins (Itinerant Tinsmith). Andrew and Elen
had a daughter Elizabeth Higgins, who married her cousin Isaac Newlands
(son of Isaac above) who was a horsedealer, born in 1864 in Boroughmuir,
died 1941 in Pittenweem. Their grave is in the churchyard there. They
had 10 children, including my grannie, Lily Newlands (1894-1976) also
buried in Pittenweem, along with my father, Isaac (1927-2000)."

Now McFie and Higgins are other traveller names elsewhere in Scotland
but I don't know how common they are in Orkney. There are still Newlands
families in Orkney but I doubt if they have any connection with the
travelling people nowadays. I don't know them, though.

Walt Custer has a short file of Newlands births and baptisms in
Caithness, Orkney and Shetland. The surnames are (in various forms)
Newlands, MacFee, Williamson and White — all traveller surnames.


A site on gypsies (or "Egyptians", as they were originally called) in
Scotland, particularly the Borders, here:


Norman Tulloch

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